I carefully tuck my mosquito net under the mattress, secure the door flaps with two clothes pins and place my flashlight beside my pillow. Once inside that cocoon, access to the light switch is out of reach. Outside the net a few fireflies hang, glowing like suspended embers. I fall into an uneasy sleep.
Hours before the first light I awake from the clang of an animal banging into plates on the counter top from across the room. This comes as no surprise.
For weeks I’ve been plagued by the arrival of a nocturnal animal that is shredding up every rug, towel and piece of clothing it finds. Usually I sleep through its night-time mischief. Though my rustic house has a door it is open on two sides. It has no windows and two of its walls are only waist-high; an open invitation to the creatures that populate the hill of the sub-tropical terrain where I hang my mosquito net in Mexico.
In the darkness I reach for my flashlight, open the door flap, stick my head out of the net and shine the light in the direction where the noise came from. Still groggy with sleep, I’m not sure if it’s a dream when two red eyes whizz past me as it hurtles itself in front of my face. I don’t understand how it has managed to get past the net’s narrow door opening but it lands inside the net and is dangling helpless like some new-fashioned earring, caught in the mesh of the net. It is an ugly, bony tailed opossum. Finally, fully awake, I jump out of bed with my heart pounding double time. I turn on the lights and quickly plan my strategy. My trusty Webster’s dictionary is resting on the ledge behind the bed. Perfect, I think to myself. It’s big and heavy.
First I open the mosquito net as wide as it will go like a curtain on a stage. I then walk around to behind the net to where the opossum is hanging. I pick up the dictionary and whack it from behind as hard as I can. It flies across the room. It lands on the floor, frozen in fear. I instinctively pick up a can of Oko insecticide that is near and give it a dousing. It slinks out the crack by the door. My battle with the creatures of the night is over. I am left undisturbed for the rest of the season. Rattled but victorious, I go back to sleep.